04 Jun

South Africa’s school pit latrine scandal: Why children are drowning

During his first week at school, five-year-old Michael Komape drowned in a pit latrine in northern South Africa. That day in January 2014 will be one his father James Komape will never forget.

As he takes me back to the school in Chebeng village, where the tragedy struck, his pain is palpable. “When I arrived at the opening of the toilet hole all I could see was a small hand,” he says.

“Some people were standing looking into the hole, no-one had thought to take him out. It’s the saddest thing I’ve ever seen. “No-one should die like that.

He pauses for a moment before continuing. “He must have been trying to call for help to maybe even climb out. It’s hard to accept that my son died alone and probably afraid.”

Mr Komape struggles to make eye contact. Instead he fixes his eyes on the neat row of brick toilet stalls, which were built after his son died in the toilet of rusty corrugated iron just metres away.

The iron sheet that had served as the seat collapsed when Michael sat on it. He fell in, along with the seat and its white plastic lid, the authorities said. But this is not a one-off problem affecting one school.

While access to proper sanitation is a basic human right enshrined in South Africa’s constitution, many pupils have no choice but to use pit toilets.

How did things get so bad? Analysts say it is partly a legacy of apartheid, since under white-minority rule virtually no resources were allocated to develop schools for poor, predominately black children. Also to blame is the failure to maintain existing infrastructure, however basic.

Back at their home just outside Polokwane, the main city in Limpopo province, the Komapes tell me they want justice for Michael’s death.

With the help of Section27, a human rights law firm, the family are set to appeal against a recent court ruling which rejected their claim for damages over the incident.

To read the full article, click here.

31 May

Kenya’s president vows to recover resources lost in corruption scandal

Kenya’s public prosecutor said on Wednesday 24 civil servants and business people charged with involvement in the theft of nearly $100 million of public funds will stay in custody pending a June 4 hearing on their application for bail.

The suspects, who include the public service ministry’s principal secretary, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to magistrate Douglas Ogoti to charges that relate to theft at the government’s National Youth Service (NYS).‏

“Accused to be remanded in custody until Monday 4th June, 2018 when court will rule on their bail application,” the office of the director of public prosecution said on Twitter.

The NYS is a state agency that trains young people and deploys them to work on projects ranging from construction to traffic control.

It is rare for prosecutors to bring such a large group of public officials to court to answer corruption charges.

President Uhuru Kenyatta pledged to stamp out graft when he was first elected in 2013 but critics say he has been slow to pursue top officials and ministers.

In the wake of the latest NYS scandal, the president vowed to recover all resources that have been lost to corruption schemes.

“These people who are corrupt should be jailed and we recover all the stolen funds to deliver on the things we promised Kenyans,” Kenyatta told residents of the capital Nairobi while launching a government project on Wednesday.

The president also called out any Kenyans that might entertain the notion of defending people implicated in the scandal, based on their ethnicity.

“I do not want to hear anybody defending those caught in corrupt dealings. A thief is a thief irrespective of the tribe he/she comes from,” said the president.

Chief prosecutor Noordin Mohamed Haji on Monday named 54 people, 40 of them government officials, to face charges including abuse of office and conspiracy to commit an economic crime. Some of those charged remain at large.

To read the full article, click here.